Andre François

Artist, illustrator, designer and sculptor
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The Independent Online

The cartoonist, illustrator, painter, poster designer and sculptor André François was an all-rounder whose work appeared in Punch, The New Yorker and Vogue as well as in Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur and other publications across the Channel. Equally proficient at designing memorable posters for Citroën, Shell or Pirelli and at producing distinctive magazine and paperback covers, François also wrote and illustrated children's books, designed sets for ballet and theatre companies and exhibited his commercial and non-commercial work around the world.

André Farkas (André François), artist: born Timisoara, Austro-Hungarian Empire 9 November 1915; married 1939 Margaret Edmunds (one son, one daughter); died Grisy-les-Plâtres, France 11 April 2005.

The cartoonist, illustrator, painter, poster designer and sculptor André François was an all-rounder whose work appeared in Punch, The New Yorker and Vogue as well as in Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur and other publications across the Channel. Equally proficient at designing memorable posters for Citroën, Shell or Pirelli and at producing distinctive magazine and paperback covers, François also wrote and illustrated children's books, designed sets for ballet and theatre companies and exhibited his commercial and non-commercial work around the world.

Born André Farkas in 1915 in Timisoara, now in Romania, he excelled at languages and attended art school in Budapest. By 1934, he had settled in Paris and was studying under A.M. Cassandre, the leading French Art Deco poster artist of the day. "What I learned above everything else was rigour and precision," recalled the young artist, who briefly worked at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1937. Two years later, he became a French citizen, changed his surname to François and married a young Englishwoman, Margaret Edmunds. He began selling cartoons to the satirical magazines L'Os à Moelle and Le Rire but the advent of the Second World War forced the couple to move first to Marseilles and then to the Savoie area.

Returning north in 1945, André François and his family settled in Grisy-les-Plâtres, some 20 miles north-west of Paris. His striking illustrations began to appear on a regular basis in left-wing publications such as Action and Lettres Françaises while his wife helped him sell his work to Punch in the UK.

In 1952, François published Double Bedside Book, and illustrated Lettre des Iles Baladar for the poet Jacques Prévert, a collaboration that enabled him to develop a more abstract and individual style, adding a dash of humour to his black-and-white drawings. He wrote and drew a children's book, Les Larmes de crocodile, first published in France in 1954. Translated into 14 languages, Crocodile Tears became a worldwide best-seller. In turn, this and two anthologies of cartoons - The Tattooed Sailor (1953) and The Penguin André François (1964) - helped him to break into the lucrative American magazine market.

He also undertook advertising commissions, famously promoting Citroën cars like the 2CV with a two-headed horse or President Charles de Gaulle's favourite, the DS (and its groundbreaking suspension), with a balloon or a goldfish in a bowl. Keen on selling a concept rather than depicting the product itself, the artist used visual puns and animals in his drawings. He also designed sets for Roland Petit's ballet company and for Peter Hall's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor (1958) as well as Gene Kelly's Pas de Dieux (1960).

His newfound fame in publishing and his increased stature in the world of commercial advertising enabled François to spend more time on painting and sculpture work. He became a keen collagist, using anything from pebbles to coat-hangers and clock faces. Sadly, he lost most of his non-commercial work in a fire at his studio in December 2002. Undeterred, he assembled an exhibition entitled "L'Epreuve du Feu" ("Trial by Fire") at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 2003.

Greatly admired by Ronald Searle, who put him on a par with Saul Steinberg and called him "an all-round champion in every category of graphic art and a juggling genius", André François influenced many designers and illustrators, including the New York Magazine founder Milton Glaser.

Pierre Perrone

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